A U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) report published June 24 found Americans drove 987.8 billion miles in the first four months of 2015, topping the previous record of 965.5 billion set in the first quarter of 2007.
Acting Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau said in a written statement to TI News that the report underscores the nation’s need for better roads, bridges and infrastructure.
“Americans are driving farther and more frequently, and in the decades to come, we will see a rapidly growing population, increased freight volume and demographic shifts in rural and urban areas. These trends make additional investments in our highway system more important now than ever,” Nadeau said.
The data, published in FHWA's latest "Traffic Volume Trends" report, a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel, show that Americans drove 267.9 billion vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) in April, the most ever driven in April and the highest mileage for the first quarter of any year.
The April estimates show that the nation's driving has increased steadily for 14 consecutive months. A 13-state region of the western U.S. posted 60.9 billion unadjusted VMT, making it the nation's most-traveled region for the second consecutive month and the 19th month in a row of VMT growth.
Oregon is one of those states that has been experiencing an increase in miles driven.
Oregon Department of Transportation Assistant Director Travis Brouwer told TI News in a written statement that 2014 statewide vehicle miles traveled was up 2 percent over 2013and there has been growth in 2015 as well.
“While we don’t know with any certainty why travel is growing so quickly after years of being flat or down, in Oregon we suspect it is a combination of continued population growth, a strong economy and job market, and moderate fuel prices. Oregon’s economy has been growing very quickly over the past couple years, with a rapid increase in jobs, and our population continues to grow. Both of these seem to be strong correlates with vehicle miles traveled,”
Indiana led the nation with the largest unadjusted single-state traffic percent increase of 14.8 percent compared to the same month a year earlier, followed by Hawaii at 8.1 percent and North Dakota at 7.4 percent. Indiana Department of Transportation officials did not return emails from TI News.
The latest figures confirm trends identified in "Beyond Traffic," a USDOT report issued earlier this year, which projected a 43 percent increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045. The report examines the trends and choices facing America's transportation infrastructure over the next three decades, including a rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas and a transportation system that is facing more frequent extreme weather events. Increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless changes are made in the near-term.
American Trucking Associations Vice President of Public Affairs Sean McNally agrees. “With our population and economy growing, it is not surprising that Americans are driving more miles,” McNally said in an email to TI News. “We see these forces at work in increased truck tonnage. However, this data underscores the need for a long-term, well-funded highway bill that will work to ease congestion and keep our roads in a state of good repair.”